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Agents, Spectators, and Social Hope

Richard Rorty and American Intellectuals

Marek Kwiek

Rorty wrote his Achieving Our Country as a philosopher, intellectual, academic and citizen, and each of these perspectives lead to a different emphasis in reading his book, and to a different story (and ‘storytelling’ is one of the themes of the book). The emergent pictures vary: the philosopher tells a story of the growing isolation and cultural sterility of analytic philosophy in the United States of America after the Second World War; the intellectual tells a story of the political bareness and practical uselessness of (the majority of) American leftist intellectuals in the context of the emerging new global order at the turn of the 21st century; the academic tells the story about humanities’ departments at American universities, especially departments of literature and cultural studies, and their students, and contrasts their possible future fate with the past fate of departments of analytical philosophy and their students; and, finally, the citizen tells a story about the nationhood, politics, patriotism, reformism (as well as the inherent dangers and opportunities of globalization). Rorty plays the four descriptions off against one another perfectly and Achieving Our Country represents him at his very best: Rorty is passionate, inspiring, uncompromising, biting and very relevant to current public debates. Owing to the intelligent combination of the above perspectives, the clarity and elegance of his prose, and (although not revealed directly) the wide philosophical background provided by his new pragmatism, the book differs from a dozen others written in the 1990s about the American academy and American intellectuals. It also sheds new and interesting light on Rorty’s pragmatism, providing an excellent example of the application of his philosophical views. One has to note that, generally, it is almost impossible to think of any piece written by Rorty outside of the context of his philosophy, and Achieving Our Country is no exception to this rule.

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Francesco Caddeo

After decades of separation between Sartre's philosophy and Foucault's philosophy, we are now in a position to offer an analysis free from all dogmatic presuppositions. On the basis of certain themes, such as the study of the mechanisms of power, systems of marginalization, and how subjectivity is constituted, it is now possible to create links which go beyond the sterile polemics which have so often marked French philosophy. Today, Sartre and Foucault can be re-read as two very important tool-keys for giving us a way to understand the developments arising during our time. Their personal polemic of the mid-1960s must be re-read as a mutual misunderstanding. Notwithstanding some of the acerbic remarks the two philosophers said about each other, we will see that in these same pages can be found ways of thinking, especially regarding the conception of subjectivity, which can bring together these two intellectual itineraries.

French Après quelques décennies de séparation académique entre la philosophie sartrienne et foucaldienne, nous pouvons maintenant déployer une analyse qui se détache de tous les préjugés dogmatiques. À partir de certaines thématiques particulières comme celles de l'étude des mécanismes du pouvoir, des systèmes de marginalisation, de constitution de la subjectivité, il est possible aujourd'hui de construire des liens qui dépassent les stériles polémiques qui ont souvent marqué la philosophie française. Aujourd'hui Sartre et Foucault peuvent être relus, en fait, comme deux boites-à-outils très importantes pour donner une clé de lecture des évènements marquants de l'époque contemporaine. Leur polémique personnelle du milieu des années soixante doit être relue, en effet, comme une incompréhension réciproque : malgré les échanges acerbes entre les deux philosophes, nous verrons dans ces pages que certaines considérations, surtout à propos de la conception de la subjectivité, peuvent rapprocher les deux parcours intellectuels.

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Alexis Chabot

Translator : Ârash Aminian Tabrizi

Abstract

Atheism is at the heart of Sartre’s philosophy but also of his reflections on writing and the choice of the imaginary. Nonetheless, atheism for him is not a matter of an acquired and self-assured spiritual option. It is a struggle against the temptation of faith, a struggle which is nothing else than the aspiration to Being, to a justified existence, to the surpassing of contingency. This is why Sartre can qualify atheism as ‘cruel’. To be victorious against the illusions of necessity, against the confusion of literature and religion, atheism is a never-ending process of liquidation of the very idea of ‘Salvation’.

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Konstanze Baron

‘C’est dans la connaissance des conditions authentiques de notre vie qu’il nous faut puiser la force de vivre et des raisons d’agir’ states Simone de Beauvoir at the outset of her plea for an existentialist ethics in Pour une morale de l’ambiguïté. Surely, very few philosophers would disagree with her. A correct understanding of the ‘human condition’ has always been held indispensable to the formulation of any moral philosophy, and it seems all the more necessary in the context of an existentialist theory which, in denying the existence of a common human nature, places all the emphasis on the self-made aspect of human life.

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Assumptions matter

Reflections on the Kanbur typology

Paul Shaffer

In contradistinction to Ravi Kanbur's (2003) summarization of a recent conference on qualitative and quantitative poverty analysis in which he proposed a typology of differences between 'qual and quant' approaches, I argue that key elements in this typology are derivative of more basic distinctions in the philosophy of social science between three research programs: empiricism/positivism, hermeneutics, and critical theory/critical hermeneutics. The point is not simply of academic interest but has practical implications for aspects of poverty analysis, including numeric transformation of data, assessment of the validity of empirical findings, and inferring policy implications from research results.

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Seals and mountain spirits

Making tri-lingual folktale books

Kira Van Deusen

For political and economic reasons, oral storytelling has lagged behind other art forms in the Siberian cultural revival. The deep spiritual philosophy found in ancient tales can clarify and unite viable approaches to today's political, artistic and ecological concerns. Since most Siberian indigenous languages are considered to be threatened, if not almost extinct, and since languages are basic to stories, perhaps revival of storytelling can facilitate initiatives to preserve language. This article looks briefly at storytelling and language during the Soviet period and the first decade after, and describes two tri-lingual folktale book projects undertaken in collaboration with Udeghe and Khakassian folklorists and cultural activists.

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David Rose

Sartre’s account of freedom is still widely understood as a version of metaphysical libertarianism, a doctrine which asserts that the human being is completely and unconditionally free. This prevalent reading is largely due to the influence still held by Mary Warnock’s interpretation of his early texts and her privileging of the role of anguish in his thought. The true doctrine of Sartrean philosophy is, according to this position, the idea that man is absolutely and unconditionally free and that determinism is false.

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Combining Intellectual History and the History of the Book

A Case Study on the Concept of Folk in Popular Literature in the Nineteenth Century

Lone Kølle Martinsen

In this article I discuss how intellectual history can be fused with the history of the book. I base this on a case study of the concept of folk (the people) in a Scandinavian, but mainly Danish context in the popular literature written between 1822 and 1836 by the Danish author B.S. Ingemann. The main argument of the article is that in studying the history of political concepts we should include not only sources of politics and philosophy (canonical works) but broadly read work (including fiction) as sources, too, along with observations about the spread and circulation of these texts.

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The Fate of Mutation

Shift , Spread, and Disjunction in a Conceptual Trajectory

Jörg Thomas Richter

Hugo de Vries’s Mutation Theory (1901–1903) fell on fertile ground in the evolutionary sciences around the year 1900. Aside from the impact it had on biology, the concept of mutation also spread into a variety of non-biological discourses, including philosophy, sociology, historiography, and philology. The article follows the trajectory of de Vries’s concept through the discursive landscapes of the early 1900s and the 1960s. From its inception in the 1900s, the cultural imagination of mutation marks a field of conceptual crossing over rather than a mere takeover from biology.

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Boys on the Outer

Themes in Male Engagement with Music

Scott Harrison

This paper examines the cause of exclusionary practices in music, documenting the core values that underpin this issue in relation to males’ engagement with music. The focus for the paper is on the way in which gender has been one of the primary principles for the exclusion of boys, based on presumptions without foundation except in the erroneous hegemonic stereotypical images that prevail in social institutions such as schools. Through historical investigation of philosophy and practice combined with results from interviews with participants, the study reveals experiences in relation to genderbased exclusion from music. It concludes by offering an insight into approaches that deal with addressing this issue.